Third seed Rafael Nadal advanced to the fourth round of the US Open today but not without an injury scare at Flushing Meadows.
Nadal ousted fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, the 32nd seed, 7-5 6-4 6-4 in two hours and 39 minutes but in the third set called for the trainer after what tournament officials described as an aggravation of a right abdominal injury first suffered last month during his Cincinnati Masters semi-final defeat to Novak Djokovic.
“I feel it a little bit now,” Nadal said of his injury. “I will try my best to recover for the next match.
“I’m here to work hard and try my best all the time.
“It was a difficult match but it’s important to win and I’m very happy to be in the fourth round. It was a good win against Nico and I’m very happy for that.”
In an unpredictable first set, Nadal lost his first service game, the left-hander uncharacteristically crushing a forehand into the net to put Almagro into a 2-0 lead.
The world number three rebounded immediately with two breaks of Almagro’s serve to go 3-2 up.
At 5-4 up Nadal faltered once more, delivering a double fault to hand his compatriot the break back to 5-5.
It was then the Majorcan moved up a gear, taking the next two games and closing out the set to take a 1-0 lead.
The second set saw Almagro broken early to trail 2-1 but he levelled the set at 4-4 with a break back.
Once again, though, Nadal was let off the hook when his rival’s game promptly collapsed in the next game, a sixth double fault of the afternoon and a range of unforced errors handing back the initiative.
From there, Nadal held to move 2-0 up but he slipped up at the start of the third set, broken by Almagro in the second game.
True to form, the 32nd seed double faulted on break point next time around and Nadal was back in the set at 2-1 down. Both players called for the trainer after that game, Almagro seeking attention on his back while Nadal’s problem appeared to be in the stomach area.
Almagro seemed the more sprightly when the players returned to the court and he earned a break point with Nadal serving tentatively. Not tentative enough to lose the game, though, and Nadal broke again to lead 3-2.
At 5-3 Almagro held serve to keep the match alive, leaving Nadal to close it out and avoid further strain on his stomach muscles.
The problem did not stop Nadal stretching every sinew as Almagro mounted a last-ditch bid to stay in the contest, seeing off his compatriot with a backhand cross-court winner.
The third seed will continue his bid for a career Grand Slam against either 13th seed Gael Monfils of France or Argentina’s Jose Acasuso.
Nadal was not the only casualty but at least he reached the fourth round. Ninth seed Gilles Simon retired hurt with a knee injury early into the fourth set of his third round tie against Juan Carlos Ferrero. The Frenchman was trailing the Spanish 24th seed by two sets to one and had been broken in the first game of the fourth set.